Friday, August 24, 2018

my ultimate mickey's not-so-scary halloween party touring strategy

So, you have tickets to the 2018 Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

Lucky, lucky you!  Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party was my favorite part of being in Walt Disney World Resort during the Fall season.  I loved MNSSHP so much that I went twice.  The shifts where I worked the parties, especially the shift where I worked on the treat trail, were some of my favorite parts of my entire program.

I'm sure you're thrilled to take in all of the amazing offerings these parties have!  Hard-to-meet characters, special entertainment, spooky snacks, and party-exclusive merchandise are all on the bill for you during your evening of not-so-scary fun!  If you're unaware of just how much fun is in store for you at MNSSHP, here's a handy link that contains all the information you'll need to know: 2018 Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

While you may be excited, you may also be feeling a little overwhelmed.  There are a lot of "must-do" experiences at MNSSHP, and you definitely want to get your money's worth.  Today I'm going to give you my ultimate touring strategy for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.  With this plan, you're sure to hit all of the best characters and entertainment at this special event.

A word of warning before you read... this strategy is entertainment heavy.  If you'd rather visit some of your favorite classic rides than meet characters, and you have no interest in seeing any of the special entertainment, this plan isn't for you!

With your ticket to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, you can get into Magic Kingdom starting at 4:00 PM.  If you are a DVC member, you can get in even earlier-- 2:00 PM!  In order to maximize the value of your ticket, I recommend getting to the Magic Kingdom gate about 15 minutes before you're allowed to go in.  They'll have an area where you'll queue up to get your wristband, and you'll be able to enter the park as quickly as possible.

Day of the party, before 4:00 PM

You are definitely going to want to plan your full day around this party.  First of all, this is one of those rare Disney days where you'll want to sleep in and have an easy morning.  I wouldn't plan FP+ for the morning, or plan to be in a park at all before you head to Magic Kingdom for the party. Even if you're a usual night owl, you're going to be exhausted by the time the party is over at midnight.  Enjoy an extra hour or two (or three!  I won't judge) of sleep, maybe get some breakfast delivered to your room so you can stay in the room and reserve your energy for the evening.  If there are any activities at your resort that you have your heart set on doing, you are definitely going to want to save them for the day of your party.

Just before you head out the door, you are definitely going to want to know where your party tickets are, and make sure your camera and phone fully charged with a fuel rod or other external battery on deck.  I found that my phone died at both of the parties I went to because I was posting on social media constantly and taking so many pics.  Don't forget your costume!  This is one of the only occasions where adult Disney park goers are allowed to wear costumes in the park, and it's always fun to see what people come up with.  If you'd rather wear something simple and practical, that's fine, but don't be afraid to go all out!  You'll rack in all the compliments.

I am always going to recommend that you eat a late lunch/early dinner between 2:30 and 3:00.  It should be the very last thing you do before you get to the party.  The last thing you want is to be in the middle of the Halloween party action and have to stop for a meal-- it could take up anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour of your precious party time (don't worry about getting hungry during the party-- you'll definitely have time to grab some of those great party snacks in this plan 😉).

If you have a monorail resort restaurant that you're dying to try, this may be a great opportunity to eat there.  I always recommend the Kona Cafe or the Grand Floridian Cafe, which will normally be empty around 2:00 and 3:00.  If not, grab a meal at your resort's quick service location and head right to the buses when you're done.

[DVC Members Only: Did you know that you're allowed to enter the park a whole two hours earlier with your MNSSHP ticket this year?  Get to the park at 2:00, grab your wristband, enjoy a favorite ride, and eat inside the park at around 3:00]

If you're at the Magic Kingdom entrance at 3:45, you're doing amazing.  They'll have an area for you to wait for before it's time to distribute wristbands and go inside.  Once you get your wristband, grab a drink from Starbucks, send a tweet about how excited you are, and then get ready to hit the ground running-- we are going to cover a lot of ground tonight.


Get in line to meet Jack and Sally OR the Seven Dwarfs

To me, it's really important to take advantage of one of these two meet and greets while you're at the party.  Jack and Sally only meet as a pair during the Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, and they're a lot of fun to talk to, so I will always recommend taking advantage of their meet and greet during the party.  The Seven Dwarfs also meet during the Christmas Party, but if you're a Snow White fan, you might want to prefer meeting them instead.  Either way, it's hard to go wrong-- but you will absolutely want to get in line as soon as you have your wristband.  

The lines for these M&G will exceed wait times of three hours during the party, so it's really important to get in line as soon as you're able to.  With your wristband, you'll be able to start lining up for Jack & Sally at four PM.  In recent years, they've started the M&G between 5:00 and 5:30 PM to accommodate the popularity of the M&G.  If you get in line as soon as it opens, you should be done just before the party begins!  Yes, you'll still be waiting about two hours-- but you'll get your waiting in before the party starts, which leaves you more time to collect candy and enjoy special party entertainment.  When I met them, I got in line at 4:15, they came out at 5, and I met them at 5:30-- which left me so much party time!

With the Seven Dwarfs, the line won't be open until ~5:00.  Keep a close eye on the area, enjoy some nearby Fantasyland Attractions until you see that CMs have allowed people to start lining up.  I've found that the Dwarfs have a little bit of a shorter wait time for the Halloween parties.  I started lining up as soon as they allowed us to at 5, the Dwarfs came out at 6:15, and I met them around 6:30.


Merchandise, Candy, and Snack #1

Okay, now that you have M&G #1 out of the way, it's time to start collecting some party-exclusive swag!  With your wristband, you can start purchasing park merchandise

You will definitely want to pick up your merchandise as soon as possible.  I recommend visiting either the Emporium or Big Top Souvenirs, that's where you'll find the bulk of the party's special edition merchandise.  If I was going this year, I would absolutely want to get my hands on the Hocus Pocus Spirit Jersey.  Since it is the 25th anniversary of Hocus Pocus' release this year, Sanderson sister merchandise is out in full swing for the 2018 MNSSHP!  Grab a purchase, have it sent to your resort if you're staying on property, and then go collect some candy!

Trick-or-treating is definitely something you should take advantage of at least once during the party.  I know from my time at the parties that the candy mix is no joke-- Disney has the best mix!  My personal favorite stops are the Pirates of the Caribbean, the Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor, and above all, the Philharmagic-- where you can see spooky Disney movie clips playing on the screen as you collect your candy!

Remember what I said about having time to grab a snack?  Grab your first one now.  If you think you need a salty snack to balance out all the candy, try the Hades Nachos at Peco's Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe.  Ready for the sweet stuff?  If you do anything at this party, you have to try the Candy Corn Milkshake at Aunty Gravity's Galactic Goodies.

Image result for candy corn milkshake magic kingdom
Image Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog


Character M&G #2

By 7:30, consider getting in line for a second character M&G.  Some of the unique characters at the party won't have horrible lines tonight. It took me just under 40 minutes to see Cruella DeVil during my first party, and at my second party, I nearly walked up to Tarzan, Jane, and Terk!  If there's a character you know you want to meet that wasn't covered under Jack & Sally or the Seven Dwarfs, check out their line and do that now.


Hocus Pocus Villain's Spelltacular
Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party holds my favorite Walt Disney World entertainment across the board.  It has my favorite fireworks (HalloWishes), favorite parade (Boo to You), and favorite castle show-- The Hocus Pocus Villain's Spelltacular!  You can't miss this hilarious musical performance featuring everyone's favorite witches.  If you're not hype during the finale, you can stop following this plan and do whatever you want for the rest of the night.  I promise.  

There are three showings of the Villain's Spelltacular, and I always prefer the first.  It's going to be crowded, so you'll want to get there as early as you can.  But the second one cuts too close to the second parade, and I was way too tired to stay for the last show, which started at midnight.


Space Mountain, more Trick-or-Treating

After you've stopped buzzing about how Winifred Sanderson just slayed your life, it's time for more party fun.  I'm not normally one to recommend visiting attractions during MNSSHP-- but this year, you have to see Space Mountain.  Do it for me.   Space Mountain gets a spooky holiday overlay for the party, where you'll enjoy a new soundtrack and all of the lights are turned off.  If you're in the mood for a slightly-terrifying pitch black Space Mountain, I highly recommend checking out this ride during the party.

Not in the mood for Space Mountain?  Totally cool.  Do M&G #3, enjoy the Monster-Scream-O-Ween ball, and collect some more candy.


Stake out your spot for HalloWishes!

HalloWishes starts at 10:15.  I'm not a huge fan of watching fireworks in general, and you can see HalloWishes from pretty much anywhere, so I just head over to Main Street and stand wherever there's available space for me 15 minutes before the show begins.  Of course, if HalloWishes is on your bucket list for the party, I recommend getting there early-- but even 9:45 seems too early to me, since the crowds are pretty easygoing on the nights where the party isn't sold out.  Enjoy the special projections and full-perimeter fireworks!


Stake Out Your Spot for the Boo To You Parade

As you can tell, I prefer the 11:15 Boo to You Parade to the 9:15 one.  It's going to be a lot less crowded than the first one.  I am also going to strongly recommend catching the parade from Frontierland.  Across from the Golden Oak Outpost is my favorite spot.  Main Street is a lot of fun with projections on the buildings and bubbles everywhere, but it's going to be very crowded, even at the later parade.  It's just not worth the hassle in my opinion.  The parade also kicks off in Frontierland-- which means you'll be the first to start and finish watching the parade, so you'll have more time to have Halloween fun!  The closer you are to Splash Mountain, the faster the parade will pass by, but keep in mind that some of the character you'll see have special dance routines that don't officially kick off until they reach a certain point down Frontierland.

30 minutes seems like a long time to be waiting for the parade to start, but I promise you that this parade is well worth it.  Go to the bathroom, have someone in your party collect those awesome cinnamon donut holes from Golden Outpost, and get your camera ready for a fun celebration of Disney's spookiest, silliest haunts.


Enjoy the rest of the party!

After you finish up with the parade, if you're in Frontierland, you should have about another half of an hour to do whatever you want that we haven't already covered.  And you will be surprised by just how much you can get done in that half hour, since the crowds will have thinned out a lot everywhere but Main Street USA.

If you are unsure what to do, and you haven't been to Liberty Square yet, I think that Liberty Square is 100% worth a visit during the Halloween Party.  Haunted Mansion gets even spookier, and the Mansion CMs get tricked out in ghostly face paint and cobwebs.  Special characters from the Mansion roam around and talk to guests, the fog is in full effect, everything about the ambiance just so perfect.  Even if you don't feel like jumping on the Haunted Mansion, it's so much fun to just be in the area, get some pictures in, and enjoy the entertainment.  

Grab another snack before you go, just for good measure!  And of course, on your way out, don't forget to stop on the Trick-or-Treat Trail once more just to make sure you go home with a camera full of pictures and a bag full of candy.  👍

Have you done Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party Before?  What are you can't-miss party offerings and tips for first-timers?  Let me know in the comments!


Friday, August 17, 2018

my favorite dishes at the epcot food & wine festival

Spending five months living and working at Walt Disney World changed my life.  During my Disney College Program, I was presented with the opportunity to try new things and experience events that I never would have been able to do otherwise.  One of these amazing events I got to experience was the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.  Food & Wine was the best part of my DCP, and I'll tell you why. 

The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is a special park event held every fall, typically from mid-August to early-November.  During the Food & Wine, Epcot guests are invited to participate in special seminars and classes, experience special meals, and above all, sample foods from all around the globe at festival-exclusive booths in the World Showcase.  

The cultural celebration quickly became something I looked forward to experiencing every weekend.  You just can't get bored when the Festival is around.  There's so much to do and see, and so many new dishes to try at cheap prices.  There were always new things to try and new food to eat, which kept me coming back week after week until the festival wrapped up.

Two weeks ago, Disney released the full menu for this year's Food & Wine booth offerings.  You can view them here, on Disney Food Blog.  And until we get to see photos and reviews of this year's offerings, I figured I'd take a stroll down memory lane and reminisce on my favorite dishes from the festival...

First of all: my favorite Food & Wine booth dish of all time can be found at the China booth.

This is the Beijing Roasted Duck Bao Bun with Hoisin Sauce.  There's just nothing like this.  Tender duck is roasted and doused in a sweet and spicy Hoisin sauce, then served on a warm, soft bao bun alongside crispy noodles and fresh vegetables.  Out of everything I ate at the F&W festival, I think I ate this one the most.  I remember going back here all the time for this dish, and I'm so glad it's back for yet another year.  It's a serious Food & Wine hall of fame-er.

Coming in at a close second are two dishes from the Germany pavilion.  I loved the Schinkennudeln and Apple StrudelShinkennudeln is a traditional German dish made with pasta, cheese, ham, and onions.  It's a bit like mac and cheese, only richer.  On a shady note-- if you're in between the mac and cheese from the Farm Fresh Booth and this nudel gratin dish, get this one.  As for the Apple Strudel, it's a warm and delicious slice of their signature Biergarten dessert served with a to-die-for vanilla sauce and caramel drizzle.

Image result for epcot schinkennudeln Image result for epcot food and wine apple strudel

One of the best deals you'll find is in France, where gourmet dishes are served at a terrific portion for an economical price.  I really enjoyed the Boeuf Bourguignon.  

Tender, fall-apart-on-your-fork braised short ribs are served over a smashed potato and covered in a cabernet sauce in this dish, a sample version of a signature Chefs de France entree.  This year, in place of the Boeuf Bourguignon, you'll find the Carbonade de Boeuf.  One interesting quirk at the France booth is that each year, a different creme brulee is debuted.  In 2016, I tried a chocolate creme brulee that was really delicious.  But then again, I think all creme brulee is delicious, so I might be biased.  💁

Speaking of chocolate, I've had two chocolate dishes at the Food & Wine that I think are real stand-outs.  One was the Belgian Waffle with Warm Chocolate Ganache and Whipped Cream from the Belgium booth, and the other was the Sweet Dark Chocolate Raspberry Tart with Whipped Cream from the Chocolate Studio booth.

Both of these desserts were so decadent and delicious, I'm glad they're making a comeback for the 2018 festival!  The waffle was warm and fluffy, and I literally dream of that chocolate tart.  A raspberry compote mousse is served in a crunchy chocolate tart shell, and covered in a rich chocolate ganache.  

These are just a few of the amazing dishes I sampled around Epcot's World Showcase during the Food & Wine Festival.  Honorable mentions go out to the Lamb Chop With Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies (Australia) and the Taco de Camaron (Mexico).

I'd love to hear about what you guys enjoyed most during your past trips to the Food & Wine Festival, and what you guys are looking forward to most this year!  Let me know in the comments below.


Friday, August 10, 2018

where (and how!) to buy merchandise from the overseas disney resorts

The domestic parks are where 98% of my Disney Parks friends personally call "home."  I call Walt Disney World home.  And we love our homes.  But let's face it: Tokyo Disney Resort and Shanghai Disney Resort have the best merchandise.  And us American Disney fans can get v. jealous sometimes.

Take for example the Duffy the Disney Bear franchise.  Duffy made his debut in Orlando in 2002, but found a home at the Tokyo Disney Resort shortly thereafter.  After being marketed rather aggressively at the Tokyo Disney Sea park, the Tokyo audiences went crazy for him.  Now, you can find him and the rest of the friends in his franchise all over the merchandise scene at TDR.  They're so popular that there are entire stores dedicated to the friends of Duffy the Disney Bear in both Shanghai and Tokyo.

There in Tokyo, we find the elusive ShellieMay backpack that every single influencer in the past year has gotten their hands on. We also find tons more amazing merchandise that we couldn't even dream of here in the states.  I don't know why the merchandise is so much better in the international parks-- it just is.

Here, I'll let you take a look:

Image result for tokyo disney duffy merchandise Image result for tokyo disney merchandise Image result for tokyo disney merchandise Image result for shanghai disney souvenirs Image result for tokyo disney burger bag Related image

Whether you crave the Mickey burger bag or you're all over those character print tees (get it?), I think it's safe to say we've all wanted something from the overseas parks at one point or another.

Fear not.  You don't need a passport and thousands of dollars to get your hands on that amazing popcorn bucket from Shanghai that you so desperately need.  In fact, I'm going to teach you how to get exactly what you want from the comfort of your very own living room.

There are a few ways to get your hands on the international merchandise you want.  Personally, I bought my ShellieMay headband and my ShellieMay bag both on Ebay.

I bought the ears first from a seller named richiejp.  I can't recommend him enough.  I paid $29.99 for the ears-- it was the cheapest I could find for the ears, with the most expensive still only being around $35.  He had 100% positive reviews, so I went for it.  I purchased them on Saturday, July 21.  On Saturday, July 28-- just a week after I had purchased them-- they were in my hand (Ebay estimated that they'd arrive sometime mid-August).  Richiejp is from Tokyo, so he sent it through a Tokyo shipping system that was able to get my package to customs in two days.  It spent three days at the NYC ISC, then went out for delivery that Saturday.  Because this purchase went directly through NYC customs, I had to sign for them in person when USPS came to drop them off at my door.  Even though they came in a flat package most USPS sellers will leave in a mailbox, because this package had to go through customs, I had to personally accept it from my mail carrier.

They were perfect.  They came in their little plastic Tokyo DisneySea bag, with their tags still attached to them for authenticity.  They were in mint condition, with no matting from the flat envelope they were handled and distributed in.  I could not have been more thrilled!

I bought my ShellieMay bag, also from Ebay, from a seller named hulezhen2011.  Once again, hulezhen had 99.4% positive reviews, so I purchased from them.  I had a question about my order, but they responded quickly and called me "friend" which made me feel nice.  The bag shipped the day afterwards (July 31), and then it stayed in what I call "Shenzhen Hell" for a while.  hulezhen2011 is from China, so they shipped through EMS, which is one of the slower shipping services.  On Wednesday, August 1, the item arrived at Shenzhen, and the item didn't update until August 7, when it arrived at a distribution center at CT.  It went through a few more regional USPS stops, and on August 9, I was surprised to check my shipping updates to see that it had been delivered.  I found it shoved awkwardly into my mailbox, where it barely fit.  This time, the package did not go through customs, and I did not have to sign for it.

Once again, I was happy to find that the bag was authentic and NWT.  My only complaint this time around was that she arrived a little matted from her journey.  That's okay, though!  With a little bit of ruffling, she was as soft as ever.

Of course, both times I shopped through Ebay, I knew I was taking some risks because I didn't personally know the sellers.  Here are some tips to keep in mind when you shop on Ebay:

  • Know the difference between what an authentic product will look like vs. what a knockoff will look like.  Spotting the tags is the easiest way to do this.  Find out what an authentic merchandise tag will look like, and compare photos whenever you see something you want on Ebay.  If the color is off, or the seams look weird, or the tags are oddly shaped, you probably aren't looking at authentic merchandise.
  • Research your seller a little bit first.  Does your seller have mostly negative or positive reviews?  Their reviews won't lie.  Have people been reporting that the shirt came in quickly, but there was a size issue or the wrong character was went to them?  Or maybe they got the right product, but it took two months to get to their front door?
  • If the price is too good to be true, it's probably fake. Remember what I said about knowing the difference between authentic and knockoff products?  If a headband that normally sells for $30 is being sold for $8, it's not a real headband.
  • If you buy through Ebay, always leave seller feedback.  It's important to let other people know how happy (or unhappy) you are with your purchase.  That way, other prospective buyers know what they're getting into!
  • Keep a close eye on your shipping tracker.  If your package has to go through customs, you'll want to make sure there's someone at home the day your package goes out for delivery.  You may have to sign for it, and if you're unavailable, they might leave a note on your door saying that they were unable to leave the package unattended.

Don't want to purchase through Ebay?  You can also buy through a personal shopper.

Personal shopper fees can be very expensive, but with personal shoppers, you know that you'll always be getting a) authentic merchandise and b) top quality customer service.  The people I know who've gone through personal shoppers have always had nothing but amazing experiences with the sellers they've had.  Here are two of my favorites to help you out...

happyshopping_tokyo:  happyshopping_tokyo is an instagram user who always posts photos of the latest and greatest merchandise from the Tokyo Disneyland Resort Parks.  Shipping is $10 through her, and you'll get a tracking number.  She always has a smile on her face and has some very loyal followers who love to buy from her!  Follow her here.  Be warned-- you will seriously want to buy the merchandise she posts!

USShoppingSOS, inc.: USShoppingSOS is a very acclaimed overseas Disney park personal shopping service.  They've been around for a few years now and provide free shipping to the United States.  They're also one of the more expensive shopping services... however, they have an unmatched inventory for you to choose from.  If you need something specific fast, you're sure to find the piece you're looking for on their website.  Give them a click here.

Do you have a piece of merchandise from the overseas park that you desperately need?  Comment it below!  Let's work together and see if we can get it in your hands faster than you can say "Duffy the Disney Bear."


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

my top 10 favorite memories from my disney college program

2 years ago today, I checked into the Disney College Program.  The next 5 months changed my life.

Welcome to my first real blog post!

I can still remember the tears in my eyes as my family and I drove up to the Vista Way service center.  Living and working at Walt Disney World Resort through the Disney College Program had been a long time dream of mine.  As a 19-year-old who had never worked a full-time job or lived farther than an hour away from my family, I was pretty green-- but I was determined, and nothing was going to stop me from living out my dream in Orlando.

Image result for I WANNA BE where the people are

There were a lot of ups and downs during my DCP.  It was an emotional roller coaster of 15 hour shifts while battling the flu mixed with days off in Epcot that came straight out of a fairy tale.  At the end of the day, the fun times and magic I made far outweighed the hardships.  I have so many amazing memories from my DCP, but today, as we reflect on two years of my DCP check-in date-- I'm just going to share 10 with you all.

10. Visiting the Food & Wine Festival

Those who knew me personally during my Program won't find this shocking.  I was in Epcot during the fall months at least once every time I had two days off.  And I do mean every single time I had off.  

There's just something amazing about Epcot during the Food & Wine Festival that I can't describe.  Epcot became my favorite park during my program.  My love for it just amplified by 100x during F&WF szn.  I would walk into the park through the CM entrance and not even look at Future World.  I'd just head straight to Mexico and start making my way through the Showcase.  Sometimes I'd stop to grab my favorite dish at my favorite booth, other times I'd just walk along and take in the ambiance of the festival.  One time I saw Sugar Ray perform at the Eat to the Beat Concert series.  Sometimes I wouldn't be in the mood to eat anything at the festival, so I'd either a) grab some lunch at the Les Halles bakery in France, or b) walk over to the Boardwalk and grab some ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery.

I think all in all this is one of my favorite memories of the Food & Wine Festival because it brings me back to the best days of my program.  I was working 6 hour shifts 5 days a week, I was relaxed, I loved all of the work I did, and there was no urgency to get everything done.  I could explore Disney World at my own pace and know that I had many, many weeks left in my favorite place on earth-- which is why I remember my time exploring the Food & Wine so fondly.

9. Going to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

MNSSHP was the number one thing I was excited to explore.  I was hyped for Halloween party szn since before before I got accepted.  I had never been to WDW outside of July or August before, so I had wanted to see this party for years.  When the Halloween decorations finally went up during my program, I bought a pair of halloween ears and then spent a whole day exploring the decorations at MK with an iced pumpkin spiced latte in hand (it was still August).  So when I checked my schedule and saw that I had a night off for a party, I went to Cast Connection the very next day to purchase my ticket.  It was awesome.  I met Jack & Sally, met Cruella, watched the Boo to You Parade, had holiday snacks, and collected so much candy.

I loved my first MNSSHP so much that I went a second time to make sure I had done absolutely everything.  Everything about the parties exceeded my expectations.  I will always remember how much fun I had during these parties, and how fulfilled I was to finally see the Boo to You Parade in real life.

8. My One and Only Treat Trail Shift

In the same vein: I was dying for a treat trail shift.  During MNSSHP, guests are encouraged to "trick or treat" at select locations where CMs distribute candy-- also known as the "Treat Trail."  I was told that they try to give a treat trail shift to every CP in my location, so I desperately checked my schedule every week until finally, two weeks before the parties were scheduled to end, I got my treat trail shift.  I was LIT.

The best part about treat trail shifts is that you get to wear the Halloween Costume which is super adorbs.  It comes with a bat headband, I named my bat Batsy Ross.  The shift itself was so much fun.  I was hype to be working my favorite event in Walt Disney World, I was hype to be giving out candy, and I was hype to be hanging out with Batsy Ross.  It was just an all-around 10/10 night.

7. Hurricane Matthew

This is not something that sounds like it should be a good memory, but it was.  The day before Hurricane Matthew was supposed to actually hit, the parks closed at 5 PM-- which means my shift that started at 4:45 PM was cancelled.  So I wouldn't be working for three days, since the days the parks were scheduled to reopen, I had the day off.  At first, I was terrified.  I had a panic attack while my apartment-mate Hannah and I went to Wal-Mart because I was convinced that this storm was going to knock power out of our apartment for a week and that our apartment was going to be damaged beyond repair and that we all would die.

Then I woke up the next morning, 3 hours after Hurricane Matthew hit, and everything was fine.  And the rest of the day was amazing.  First of all-- some guy brought a hammock out and set it up between two trees in front of our apartment, and then I posted it on my DCP FB group and got famous.  Two of my roomies were doing "ride-out crew" (they worked at resort hotels instead of parks, so they were holding the fort down with other CMs there), and the remaining four of us had a blast.  We spent the day watching movies in the living room, ran to Walgreens for HURRICANE SNACKS (which are more special than regular snacks because you buy a bunch of "fun stuff" you don't typically keep in the house), and then my best friend Timmy came over to our apartment so we could do makeovers, eat said HURRICANE SNACKS, laugh at people on Tinder and watch more movies.  Hurricane Matthew was a perfect example of how the DCP can give you the sourest lemons, and you and your friends will still make the best lemonade out of it.

6. The Night I was Trained for Wishes Crowd Control

When you work at Peter Pan's Flight/it's a small world, 9/10 times, you'll be trained to do crowd control for the fireworks show-- which, at the time, was WISHES: A Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams.  During the fireworks show, all of Cinderella's Courtyard is closed to guests.  So us PPF CMs (and Philhar CMs!) set up the ropes that close the area, stand by the ropes to make sure no guest shenanigans ensue, and then put the ropes away.

I got really when I was trained for Wishes because I a) had an amazing trainer who I adored, and b) was training with my closest CP friends.  So first of all, my best friend and I laughed the entire time we were backstage doing the manual stuff.  We laughed about jokes we made during that training until our time at Disney was over.  But then something else happened.  While we were onstage, a rubber cap from the fireworks fell near us and I freaked out (this is a very rare incident, and a very harmless thing to happen-- but given my circumstances, I was a mess about it).  It's one of those things that get you all frazzled, but then you truly laugh about it afterwards, which is what cements my Wishes training in favorite memory history.

5. Visiting my Family (and Being Visited!)

During the DCP, you make a lot friends that quickly become family.  The camaraderie between college-aged students who are all doing the best they can at their favorite place on earth is something you won't find anywhere else.  But as you can imagine, nothing can replace the family and friends you left at home.  I got so homesick during the middle of my program that two weeks before Thanksgiving, I took four days off to fly back up to New Jersey and see my family.  I had a very cathartic day in NYC where I saw my favorite person (hi Austin!), did my favorite thing (saw a Broadway show), and ate my favorite food (NYC pizza).  I spent an amazing day with my mom and I cried when I had to go back to Florida.  

I was the one being visited twice during my DCP.  In September, my best friends Molly and Alex came to see me and we had a magical day at MK together.  Then two weeks after Thanksgiving, my aunt, uncle, and cousins came to Disney World.  I got to spend a whole day with them and I couldn't have been happier.  We had so much fun in Animal Kingdom and I didn't want to leave them (nor did I want them to leave me!)

During your time in Disney, you're bound to spend a good amount of time wishing you were with your friends and family.  So if you're lucky enough to see them during your program, it will definitely be a treasured memory.

4. Being Castle Front for the First Frozen Holiday Wish of the Season

So remember two memories up when I got trained for Wishes?  Well, one night I was actually working Wishes.  I was at a position I don't normally enjoy-- it's called "Castle Front."  And it has the best view of Cinderella's Castle in all of Magic Kingdom, but it can get pretty stressful.  But one time, I was Castle Front during the first Frozen Holiday Wish of the season.  Anna and Elsa's Frozen Holiday Wish is a cute little show they do, and it's almost like a ceremony.  At the end of the show, the castle gets all lit up in it's Christmas lights!  So imagine being me and having the best view in the World to watch the castle get all lit up for the Holidays for the very first time.  I will never forget the view.  

3. The Night I was Trained to Close it's a small world

When I first arrived on my program, small world was about to go under construction.  So us new CPs got trained for PPF the week we got down there, and then a month or so later when small world came back up, we trained for that.  That meant I had time to make friends and already knew my trainer, which of course, made everything less scary and a lot more fun.  First of all-- I loved my trainer.  He was one of my favorite people in the entirety of my location, and called us all his "kids."  Just a genuinely great guy all around.  This was another training session where none of us could stop laughing.  We laughed when we had to get in the water to do the evacuation procedure, and then we laughed even harder when we got out of the water and flopped around, desperately trying to get out of our waders.  

The icing on the cake was a touching moment that broke up the hilarity.  Our trainer had us sit on the edge of the water in our waders and gave us all a penny, then had us make a wish and throw it into the waters like so many guests before us had.  It was really sweet.  Those nights where you have sweet moments mixed with tons of laughs is what makes this job awesome.

2. Winter Formal

Every DCP has a service celebration.  If you go during the fall, you get a Winter Formal at the end of it.  I really loved our Winter Formal!  2016 was the year we celebrated 45 years of Magic Kingdom, so we had a Magic Kingdom themed formal.  It was a lot of fun!  We had rare characters and I got to hang out with my best friends.  We did the cupid shuffle together, met some characters together, and then we hilariously recreated what our jobs were like when we closed at the end of the night with angry guests.  I remember thinking "man, it's good we're all hanging out tonight because I'm going to miss these people once this program is over."  And I was right.  And I still miss them.

1. Sprinkling the Pixie Dust for the Very First Time

As soon as I found out I would be an Attractions hostess, I knew I wanted to work at Peter Pan's Flight with all of my heart.  It was my favorite attraction, and I wanted to be a CM who got to sprinkle the pixie dust in the worst way.  

If you've never been on Peter Pan's Flight before, the lap bars go down automagically.  There's CM walking on the belt by the point where the bars go down, and they reach over and use their fingers to "sprinkle pixie dust" over the bar, so it looks like their pixie dust is what's causing the bar to go into place.  It's amazing, and it's beautiful, and it's everything I wanted to do.

Sprinkling the pixie dust ended up being the first position I ever did on stage.  I spent 5 minutes on the belt, and I remember everything about it so clearly.  I remember how easily I was able to get into the hang of it, I remember the look of delight on the face of parents who flew by, and above all, I remember how it felt to be the girl who sprinkled the pixie dust.  It was incredible.  It felt like all of my dreams came true.  It was the picture-perfect way to start my program.

Every now and again, someone will ask me about what it was like to work for Disney.  Sometimes, my mind goes right to the bad.  But then I take a deep breath and remember what it felt like to sprinkle the pixie dust for the first time.  


Sunday, August 5, 2018

welcome to tinkerkait!

On the first day of 6th grade, my Language Arts teacher had us open up our brand-new composition notebooks and start writing about what we did over the summer.

I started writing about my family's vacation to Myrtle Beach.  I start with all of the events leading up to the day we left, and from there I couldn't stop.  Every day we'd have time to write in our notebooks, and every day I'd pick up right where I left off in the story.  I didn't leave out any details, and didn't stop to take any breaks.  I couldn't explain why I loved writing about our trip so much, but I remember feeling sad when I finished writing up about our drive home.

When I was a junior in high school, I found DISboards, a Walt Disney World fan discussion forum.  On DISboards, there's an entire forum dedicated to writing and reporting on your Disney vacations.  That's where I picked up the love I developed for travel writing in sixth grade, and I've been working on improving it ever since.

Welcome to tinkerkait.

I've tried my hand at a few blogs before, but ultimately, none of them were successful because my focus was in the wrong place.  Lifestyle blogs are fun, but I just don't have a passion to write about anything that doesn't involve a pair of mouse ears and a giant castle in the middle of Orlando, FL.  This time, my focus is right where it should be.  tinkerkait is the intersection of my love for walt disney world resort and my love for travel writing.  It's my contribution to a rapidly growling community of millennial content creators who love the Disney parks.

So who am I, and how did I get here?

That's me, Kaitlyn!  You can find a lot more information about me on my "about" page, but I'll just give you what you really need to know right here:  I'm a 21-year-old Disney College Program alumn who visits the WDW gates annually.  I'm an Annual Passholder and a DVC owner at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort.  I've loved WDW since I first visited the parks in 2002.  In January, I started a collaborative blog with some other Fall 2016 DCP alumns-- it's called fairygodbloggers, and I still write for it!  I'm the dining and food correspondent.  A few months ago, I started a Disney IG account.  Getting to know so many different Disney Park bloggers, influencers, small shop owners, and fans encouraged me to make the switch over from my personal blog to this blog.  

That leads us right up to here.  And I'm so excited to start this new project.

So grab your Canon (or your Nikon!), your rose gold minnie mouse ears, and your ShellieMay backpack and join me as I start my latest adventure!


(P.S; remember that Disney insta I was talking about?  It's @tinkerkait, like this blog!)

big announcement: i just launched a brand new resource all about the disney college program!

and now, i humbly present to you: kait's comprehensive, unofficial (free) guide to the disney college program.